An unorthodox ’22 string fest

Every year, the Elmbrook Orchestras get together to play at String Fest, a concert for fifth, sixth, eighth, and chamber orchestras throughout the district. This year, however, some changes were made. “Something different this year is that we are inviting all the middle schoolers to play, as they missed out on going for the past 2 years,” said Trent Reay (‘23). All orchestras from both WHMS and PPMS joined Central and East orchestras at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center on Thursday, February 17th, for a half day rehearsal and a concert that same night. For the middle schoolers, this was just the start of their journey through music, but for the seniors it would be their last String Fest. “It’s my last year in the music program at Elmbrook and I am now an upperclassman at String Fest,” said Jahnavi Hansaria (‘22). “It feels a bit surreal because I’m now the chamber student that I would watch in awe when I was younger. It’s crazy how time flies and how everything comes back full-circle.”

For many musicians, String Fest is full of memories. Whether performers have done it multiple times or only once, it is always fun to see what has changed over the years. “My experience with String Fest in the past definitely started when I was in elementary school. It was exciting to see the high schoolers play incredible music and be excited to keep playing my instrument,” said Maika Olveda (‘22). The incoming freshmen also have their fair share of experiences. The last String Fest was three years ago, pre-COVID, and it was when they were the youngest group playing. “In the past it was a lot of fun to see the high schoolers and the middle schools and how good they were. But my experience wasn’t the best. The conductor had to stop us in the middle of our song because we weren’t playing the best, so it is pretty scary to be going to do that again,” said Greta Weishaar (‘26). The best part about String Fest is the chance to improve and try again. The incoming freshmen got a chance to do so this year and show off their new skills to both grades above and below them. Abbie Welch (‘26) said “…instead of being the youngest ones there, we are more so in the middle age group. I also found it easier to learn the pieces this year as opposed to in the past when I was just learning how to play my instrument.”

String Fest is not just about self-improvement and comradery between the school orchestras. It is also meant as a way to recruit younger musicians to play in high school, as well as prepare them for the next steps. This is done by allowing them to ask questions of each other and by having high school students play with middle schoolers during the rehearsal and concert. “I think this will help me in high school orchestra because the high schools’ playing will expose me to the kind of music and level we will be playing on for the next few years,” said Alexandra Rossi (‘26). The Elmbrook Strings Fest has helped to inspire tons of students to pursue a stringed instrument into high school. That is why it was created in the first place. Hopefully, String Fest will continue to build good relationships in the future and help it continue to grow even after all of the current members are gone.